Updated: 3:55 p.m. | Posted: 3:06 p.m.
Schools, non-profit organizations and other locations around the state are gearing up to serve free summer meals as school lets out for many Minnesota students this week.
The summer food program aims to fill the gap for students who depend on school meals during the academic year. The organization, Hunger Impact Partners said in a news release that in 2016, about 18 percent of eligible Minnesota youth participated in the meals.
Children and teens 18 years old and younger can get free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at around 700 sites throughout the summer. The meals offered, hours and menus vary by location.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a website with locations. Users can also text "Summer Meals" to 97779 for information on the program.
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Ellie Lucas, CEO of Hunger Impact Partners, said a mobile app may help solve the problem of "knowing where the meals are, knowing if there is a site that's in close proximity to where they live, and being able to be there at the time that the meals are being served."
Hunger Impact Partners helped develop the app called Summer Eats Minnesota that offers information on meal locations, hours and menus.
Michelle Heerey with Second Harvest Heartland said some children just can't get to where the meals are available.
"Especially in the suburbs, if there aren't school buses moving kids around a community that's really designed for cars, it's hard for kids to get to the meal sites," Heerey said.
This summer, Second Harvest Heartland works with the South Washington County school district on mobile food distribution out of an old school bus.